Primary Sources for the Presbyterian Masses

True Ministers of the Word

In Ministerial Call & Preparation on 17/07/2011 at 16:55

A good Sabbath diversion and a necessary reminder and corrective, from John Owen’s BIBLICAL THEOLOGY. The volume itself was only translated into English by Stephen Westcott and published in 1994 by Soli Deo Gloria. From the 1996 printing, pages 689-690 :

“Secondly, I propose to pay attention to the use of theology in the ministry of the gospel. We can say without any qualification that mere knowledge alone will never make a man a minister of Christ. Above knowledge there is also required a solemn vocation, a call from God, and an electing and appointing by the Church for that office to be properly undertaken.

Such is the dual nature of theology—on the one hand, everyone, without exception, who is concerned for his own salvation and for the glory of God ought to devote himself to it, and yet the practice of it is only for those who have an irrepressible motivation to instruct others in the things which the Divine will have revealed to them. If those who have set their sights upon the sacred office of minister would only pause to consider what great light and what spiritual gifts it has pleased God to bestow upon His Christian people in these latter days (including many from the lowest ranks of society), they would see at once the necessity of labor with all the strength of their body and mind to improve the spiritual gifts which they themselves are possessed of. If they don’t, how soon they will find that years spent in learning the arts and sciences, languages and philosophy, and all their training in rhetoric and debate will not keep them from seeming foolish before their flock or render their ministry of any practical use at all!

How much of this learning will prove itself completely irrelevant once they find themselves dealing directly with the daily needs of a congregation! If a farmer was to hire laborers to do his sowing and reaping for him, and then advertise his own services as a navigator or, perhaps, as a military expert, what would he invite but deserved ridicule? Nor will it ever turn out any better for those who thrust themselves into the sacred office of teaching and leading a Christian community without any spirituality and still strangers to the mysteries of the Gospel, but whose stock-in-trade is rather secular learning and academic trickery!

Yet every day there press into the vineyard (more’s the pity!) our new preachers : foolish youngsters with a smattering of higher education who fondly believe that they will be able to fool the simple country folks with a din of long words, and so keep them content—such is their own estimate of their powers—while in the event they just demonstrate in public their own lack of saving light or spiritual attainments, and so their ministries prove total failures. How can they be anything but objects of scorn to experienced saints of Christ, familiar with the ways of the Lord and daily walking in His ways?

And so they prove themselves not ministers but incompetent good-for-nothings. And what follows this revelation but the usual brawlings, feuds, and schisms? It is to prevent such scandals that our sacred calling requires us to be hard gospel students, practicers of holiness, true ministers of the Word, and to be ever ready to overcome by the force of truth and not by force of arms.”

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